Here is another Sony Xperia smartphone on review. Sony has been very aggressive and launched so many variants to a model series, which they denote with “Compact”, “Plus”, “Ultra” or “Premium”. For the XA1 series, the XA1 is the base model, the XA1 Plus is slightly bigger, and the XA1 Ultra is the biggest. Some series, like the XZ1, has a “compact” model which is smaller than the base model. At the high level, the various sub-models within the series should be similar in hardware and performance other than the screen size, but there are exceptions, so one must be careful in comparing the specs, particularly the RAM, internal storage, screen resolution, which might vary.
Same Xperia Design
Having previously tested the XA1 Ultra, the XA1 Plus performs similarly, but in a 5.5-inch screen. One thing about Sony Xperia is that they are adamant in sticking to their design DNA across the entire mobile product line. And for that, all the Xperia models come with thick bezels at the top and bottom, adding to much bulk. In fact, Xperia phones are generally heavy and bulky, which might not be a bad thing. At least they are easier to handle compared to other brands whose pursuit for thinness led to durability issues.
Dual SIM and Separate micro SD Card Slots
Another design element that Sony strongly advocates is that their models come with dual SIM and a separate microSD card slot. The slots do not require a tray removal pin, which really helps when you want to access the tray outside without any tools. What I also like is that all the Xperia models, even the so-called “low-end” ones, come with NFC.
One major difference of the XA1 Plus from XA1 and XA1 Ultra is that it has a fingerprint sensor on the power button, designed like any other Xperia models with it. The implementation of the fingerprint sensor is that it only reads the fingerprint when you click the power button, so in one action, as you click to turn on the screen, it reads the fingerprint and authenticates you. This is different from other brands sensors where all you do is to touch it and it unlocks immediately. I like the Xperia way of unlocking, because so many times as I was handling the phone, whenever I accidentally brush my finger on the sensor, the phone wakes up. So I had to be more aware when I slip my phone in my pocket, to make sure the phone is not unlocked.
Dedicated Camera Button
All Xperia phones retain the camera button, allowing immediate access to capture images.
Experience of Xperia XA1 Plus
Running on MediaTek Helio P20 octa-core, the XA1 Plus has the same user interface and design of an XA1 series. What didn’t work for me is that the phone performs generally sluggish. There appears to be some sensitivity issues on the touchscreen, perhaps because the review unit has been heavily handled. The OS is still at Android 7, and software updates appear lacking (review unit’s Android security patch level is still at 5 Aug 2017).
Other than that, the camera quality is on par with the other XA1 series, which provides dense pixel count of 23MP, impressive for a mid-range phone.
There are good balance of exposure, sharpness and colour tones.
Care must be taken on the rear camera lens, that appears not to have any anti-smudge coating. Any blemish will result in images that appear soft. Low light is not exceptionally exciting. And due to the massive image file size, it takes a little bit of time to load the full-res image when zooming in 100%.
The front camera of 8MP is heavy on processing, with soft skin enabled by default, but can only be turned off at the settings. There are no adjustment options available on the shoot screen.
Battery size of 3430 mAh delivers more than a day of usage, and the adaptive charging expands battery life by recommending slow charge after learning your usage pattern, for instance, overnight charging. In the audio department, the XA1 Plus offers mono speaker, Clear Audio+ and Bluetooth 4.2 aptX codec, without LDAC.
For a 5.5-inch smartphone, the weight of 190g is considered hefty, but the plastic body offers a rare build of durability. In the era where most phones use glass or metal as the exterior, plastic materials last longest and endures drops without permanent dents or splitting cracks.
Xperia XA1 Plus retails at S$498 and comes in 4 colours: Gold, Blue, Pink and Black. While there may be many smartphones at the price range that provides better specs, the 23MP camera resolution is the highest for the price. As long as you do not load it with heavy tasks, the XA1 Plus handles just fine.